Rdgs Seminar in US History
Rdgs Seminar in US History HIST 6393
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Date Created: 09/19/15
Katy Pierce Hist6393 Buzzanco Spring 2005 Book Review 1 La Feber Walter Inevitable Revolutions The United States in Central America WW Norton amp Company 1993 Traditional historical interpretations of Us policies in Latin America often site containment or the spread of democracy as primary justifications for Us intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations In his book Inevitable Revolutions Walter La Feber challenges this traditional historical explanation Instead he contends that the Us government has pursued foreign policies in Central America that advocate intervention in an effort to protect and preserve US economic interests at the expense of democracy and human rights for the region La Feber presents his argument by chronicling the evolution of a neodependancy system created and perpetuated by over a century of Us foreign policy in the Central American countries of Guatemala Honduras El Salvador Nicaragua and Costa Rica La Feber neodependancy theory is built upon the theory of dependency used by some scholars to describe the relationship between Latin America and the Us The dependency theory defines a system where leading powers such as the US use their economic strength to in uence the economic development of smaller nations According to this theory US economic dominance ultimately stunts the growth of the smaller nation s economy which forces the smaller nation to depend on the US In Central America s case US domination of the economy created a system which forced them to rely upon one or two export crops such as coffee or bananas This drive to export goods caused a small number of elites to use the majority of the land for the production of export crops This left little land for subsistence crops which forced the Central American nations to rely on the Us not only for its food supply but also to buy its goods This system concentrated food and money in the hands of a few elites and caused starvation and oppression among the masses La Feber however argues that the dependency theory does not adequately describe the hegemony imposed upon Central America by the US He contends that US hegemony can only be understood by extending the dependency theory to include US dominance over political and military institutions in the region as well La Feber coins this pervasive dominance the neodependency system La Feber argues that the formation of the system was based on principles such as a confidence in capitalism a willingness to use military force a fear of foreign in uence and a dread of revolutionary instability He contends that this policy of intervention was paradoxical Although the policy successfully created and bolstered US hegemony it was also responsible for the outbreak of revolution in Central American La Feber s text seeks to explain why it was inevitable for this system to end in revolution According to La Feber US dominance in Central America began in 1823 with the inception of the Monroe Doctrine The doctrine was originally designed to protect Latin America from the in uence of European powers but was eventually transformed into justification for Us control of Central American internal affairs La Feber argues that Theodore Roosevelt s Corollary which declared that the Us act as policeman to maintain order in the Western Hemisphere and William Howard Taft s dollar diplomacy extended the meaning of the Monroe Doctrine to justify not only intervention when outsiders sought to in uence Central America but also in its internal affairs that seemed threatening to US interests After World War Ithe threat of European in uence in Latin America diminished this change in political dynamics required a new interpretation of US policy toward Central America Franklin Roosevelt s Good Neighbor policy built on previous policy by tightening the system by not only in uencing the economies of Central America but by directly in uencing its political and military institutions as well These policies strove to maintain the status quo despite its often oppressive brutal and totalitarian nature According to La Feber the US govemment s goal was to maintain stability in the region even if it meant supporting oppressive totalitarian military regimes The goal of US interventions was not to bring stability through democracy but to protect is economic interests by maintaining order in the region This maintenance of the status quo ultimately lead to a half century of covert CIA meddling in the internal political and military affairs of Central America It also lead to US military interventions that supported protected and propped up oppressive oligarchicmilitary compleX s and squelched or eliminated locally based revolutions La Feber argues that the contradiction between US rhetoric of liberty and Us political and military interventions that supported totalitarian governments perpetuated enormous abuses of human rights and disparity of wealth that made revolution in Central America inevitable He contends that American leaders continually turned there back on freedom and human rights to maintain a system that bene ted US hegemony and economic domination The scope of La Feber s argument is quite large for one book In some respects this is a weakness of the text Although the structure of the book provides the reader with a sense of the sweeping control the Us possessed over the political economic and military institutions of Central America it waters down the experiences of each separate nation The shear amount of information that La Feber squeezes into the book blurs the histories of each place together This is an effective structure for highlighting US hegemony in the region but diminishes the nuance and complexity of each nation s history and experience The structure of his argument also creates a large amount of repetition of details and confusion of chronology His argument may have been more effective if the author had chosen to present each country separately La Feber s organization by US political eras obstructs the reader s sense of struggle between regimes and revolutionaries Despite this weakness in presentation I found La Feber s argument to be compelling His book brings up important questions regarding America s role in the world It is especially helpful for creating historical context for current debates regarding US intervention in sovereign nations under the guise of spreading democracy and human rights La Feber s book keeps the questioning of Us goals intentions and justifications when implementing policies at the forefront of analysis of past and present US foreign policy